Exposition of Ezekiel 34
A Job Description for a Pastor

by David R. Cox
(c) 2003

KJV Ezekiel 34:1 And the word of the LORD came unto me, saying, 2 Son of man, prophesy against the shepherds of Israel, prophesy, and say unto them, Thus saith the Lord GOD unto the shepherds; Woe be to the shepherds of Israel that do feed themselves! should not the shepherds feed the flocks? 3 Ye eat the fat, and ye clothe you with the wool, ye kill them that are fed: but ye feed not the flock. 4 The diseased have ye not strengthened, neither have ye healed that which was sick, neither have ye bound up that which was broken, neither have ye brought again that which was driven away, neither have ye sought that which was lost; but with force and with cruelty have ye ruled them. 5 And they were scattered, because there is no shepherd: and they became meat to all the beasts of the field, when they were scattered. 6 My sheep wandered through all the mountains, and upon every high hill: yea, my flock was scattered upon all the face of the earth, and none did search or seek after them.

This passage of scripture lays out the complaint of God against these poor pastors of God's flock. They failed in their duty and charge before God, and God rebukes them pointedly. In this passage of scripture we can outline exactly what a pastor of God's people is supposed to do and what he should be careful not to fall into. We must understand that although the Lord is rebuking these pastors in terms of a shepherd and his flock (animals), the analogy is exactly that of a spiritual leader of God's people (pastor of a church) and his relationship with his people.

"Shepherds that do feed themselves! should not the shepherds feed the flocks?" - The principle job of the pastor is to feed the sheep. You cannot get around it. Any pastor that does not dedicate time, energy, money, and attention to the teaching, expositing, and preaching of God's word is simply not fulfilling his primary duty. This means that if he does not know how to teach, preach, or exposit Scripture, that this becomes the primary activity of the new or young pastor. He MUST LEARN TO FEED, and to feed well the sheep. I personally have met pastors that get their sermons together on Sunday morning in the hour during Sunday School. Although they may think about it through the week, the point is that "spiritual feeding" means a lot to the Lord. It means every word spoken in the pulpit is extremely important, and the pastor should dedicate a lot to making sure it is exactly what God wants said, not anything added to it, nothing taken away from it, and nothing changed.

KJV Revelation 22:18 For I testify unto every man that heareth the words of the prophecy of this book, If any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book: 19 And if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life, and out of the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book.

This also means that the pastor must have a very clear understanding of the passage he is talking about. This means studying it thoroughly (in the original languages if at all possible) and seeing what others have said about it in good, sound commentaries. Once that has been accomplished, he must sit quietly and think about the message that God has for him and his flock from that passage. This takes a lot of time. Moreover he must make sure that his presentation does not contradict some other passage of Scripture. The only way to do this is to read the entire Bible through regularly (meditating on what he is reading) so that it can be at least familiar to him. All of this takes time if the pastor is to do things correctly before the Lord. This is why God does not indicate to us that pastors work secular jobs to support themselves, and prepare 20 minutes or an hour for their sermons.

KJV Acts 20:20 And how I kept back nothing that was profitable unto you, but have shewed you, and have taught you publickly, and from house to house, 27 For I have not shunned to declare unto you all the counsel of God.

The pastor must declare all the counsel of God. He must pick a passage for each opportunity, but overall he must hit the major doctrines and principles of God. Some of the required things a pastor simply MUST make his priority is teaching about what is the true salvation and what is not true salvation (Roman Catholicism, Mormons, Jehovah's Witnesses, or whatever is current in his city with his people as far as false doctrine). He must also teach and preach things that would rebuke his people of their particular sins. He must teach the principle doctrines of Scripture, and he must teach his people how to be holy (separation issues, principles of holiness, and church discipline). He must also teach his people what the work and plan of God is as far as God's people is concerned, and also how it is to be done. These issues must not be given by fiat (just stated) but rather Scripture must be read and exposited relating to each of these points. If Scripture does not convince in an issue, it is better to leave it as a minor priority or omit that subject or teaching altogether.

KJV Nehemiah 8:8 So they read in the book in the law of God distinctly, and gave the sense, and caused them to understand the reading.

The method that God gives for pastors to feed their sheep and do their work is through reading the Word of God, then explaining it so that the people understand what God has said. There is no other way. Throughout Scripture, writers and preachers and prophets appeal to what God has said in his Holy Scriptures. We are not to change that methodology. This shows why exposition of Scripture is so important for the preacher. He must have a second nature in interpreting Scripture correctly. He must know what the Bible says, and be able to accurately and clearly express it. He must understand and observe the rules of interpretation that guide preachers to a correct exposition of Scripture.

Feeding on the Word of God for spiritual growth and reproduction. "Ye eat the fat, and ye clothe you with the wool, ye kill them that are fed: but ye feed not the flock."

KJV 1 Corinthians 9:14 Even so hath the Lord ordained that they which preach the gospel should live of the gospel.

Again, there is nothing wrong with a pastor who works of the gospel to live of the gospel. This is biblical. But the point that God is rebuking these pastors here is that they lived well from the sheep, in fact, extremely well. And these men did not fulfill their part of doing a good job for a good salary. They took liberties with the goods and property of the sheep, and instead of reinvesting it into the needs and task he had to do, he lived in luxury. Yet his primary objective of feeding the sheep he failed miserably in.

Prevention of problems - "The diseased have ye not strengthened" - “Diseased” means weak from frenzied activity, pain, or twisting. These things wedge themselves into our lives. Pastors strengthen spiritual lives weakened by mindless activity and “Christianity is a list” mentalities by binding the principles of the word of God to their lives. Each and every Christian must know and understand the principles of God and apply them in his own life. The idea of Christians obeying the list of do's and don'ts that the pastor gives them each week is just wrong. They must be able to discern, and they must wrestle with the hard issues of life through understanding and knowing the Scriptures for themselves. We should also bring in here the element of prayer. That is how we get spiritual strength, through spending time on our knees before our God.

Counseling to confront sin - "Neither have ye healed that which was sick" Heal the sick – The problem is the same but, but this fixes/cures the problem by mending (stitching two things together, Word of God). The pastor must access the problem in each of his sheep, and then go to the Word of God and bind scriptural principles on that problem with that person. This is done through public preaching and teaching, and also through private counseling. At times the pastor can also prepare and give private Bible studies or home study courses that can help. But the point is that the pastor MUST CONFRONT THE SINS OF HIS PEOPLE, and RESOLVE THEM CORRECTLY (BIBLICALLY).

Comfort & consolation to overcome demoralizing events - "Neither have ye bound up that which was broken" Binding up the broken (burst) – Hard experiences can cause a broken Christian life. The Pastor must pick up the pieces and bind the word of God on him such that the sin damage done does not make the Christian permanently useless and fruitless for Christ. For example a family loses a child, or a husband or wife loses a spouse or parent. These things totally destroy our lives at least for a while. The pastor must intervene with the counsel of God so that the Christian does not get so bound up in his pain, mourning, or misery that he becomes fruitless for God in his own spiritual life.

Return to God’s focus of growth and reproduction - "Neither have ye brought again that which was driven away" Bring back the driven away (those pushed off from the group) – Many things cause people to leave the church: simple offenses by fellow Christians, church discipline on sin (theirs or others) and even some actions by the pastor himself. The pastor is to seek those that don’t come, to integrate them into a place of fruitfulness and labor in the local church.

Focus on evangelism and reaching the lost with the gospel - "Neither have ye sought that which was lost" Bring the gospel to the lost, and the lost to Christ - This is the main plan and work of God. Anybody who minimizes the importance of this does not have a clue as to the mind of God in the matter. This was the one thing that cost God the most dearest thing in His life, the life and death of His Son, Jesus Christ. Simply put, the main focus of the local church and the Christian is bringing others to Savior. Moreover, it is binding on us that as churches and ministries we stress the importance, necessity, and priority of EACH AND EVERY INDIVIDUAL CHRISTIAN TO BE ABLE TO WITNESS HIS FAITH, AND TO BE DOING SO REGULARLY. This our goal as a ministry is that every person in our church should both be saved, and they should be able to lead somebody else to Christ. We should regularly review the major different religions and cults acquainting our folk with how to deal with them through Scriptures to lead them to Christ.

"But with force and with cruelty have ye ruled them"

Very simply, the pastors that God criticized are those who refuse to take upon themselves the biblical style of leadership, as found in

1 Peter 5:2-3 the flock of God which is among you, taking the oversight thereof, not by constraint, but willingly; not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind; 3 Neither as being lords over God's heritage, but being ensamples to the flock.

Willingly we take the oversight, and we are not as overlords (commanding people by the force of our authority, like a dictator) but by our personal example of our own life, we lead. That means simply, that Christians are supposed to be like their church leaders, which are supposed to be like Jesus, not God the Father.

The big difference between God's presentation of Himself in Jesus and the Father, is that the Father is always represented as having "His Will", which is the crux of everything. By God the Father's will, we define sin, we are saved by submitting to God the Father's will (believe or accept or receive Jesus Christ as you Savior), we minister according to God the Father's will, etc.

Jesus on the other hand is portrayed as the model or pattern by which we should follow. Jesus put His own will aside and followed or submitted Himself to God the Father's will. God the Son is portrayed for us in this manner to teach us the biblical "style" of leadership, personal example. He did not do His own will, but followed the master plan, the will of God the Father.

1 Corinthians 4:16 Wherefore I beseech you, be ye followers of me.

Paul could say to the Corinthians to "be imitators" of Paul himself. This is not arrogance, but is simply the biblical style of leadership.

If a pastor takes an authoritarian style of leadership over his flock, then can he really say, "be like me"? Ever put to dictators together in a room? Know what happens? Soon one will leave or else they will be strangled each other so that only one is left. Churches are no different. God rebukes men who rule His flock in an authoritarian style of leadership. The pastor absolutely must stop ordering people around, and show them what to do and how to do it by being the first and best example of it.

In education there is a saying, "more is caught than taught". This is the essence of this point. People will always be more like you are rather than be like you say they should be.

"They were scattered, because there is no shepherd"

Some people contend that pastors are unbiblical. This is the position of groups such as the Brethren, some Bible churches, and some others (cults). This is simply not what the Bible evidence portrays. God WANTS His people to be under the watch care of a spiritual man of God. God laments the situation of His people with no spiritual overseer.

Matthew 9:36 But when he saw the multitudes, he was moved with compassion on them, because they fainted, and were scattered abroad, as sheep having no shepherd.

These brethren have made an error in their analysis of the situation. The office of pastor is not wrong, but the particular people in that office are doing it in an unbiblical manner.

"They became meat to all the beasts of the field, when they were scattered"

This is the actual situation of most of Christianity. People are easy prey to the cults, the abusive preachers, the foolish. They do not organize themselves into local churches for the purpose of completing God's perfect will, which is involved in the "work of God".

"None did search or seek after them"

Spiritual watch care means somebody is an overseer over you. Hebrews

This means that somebody must give answer to God for your growth, your standing before God, your spiritual knowledge, etc. This means that when something goes wrong in your life and you get away from God, somebody will notice, and that somebody has the spiritual call and responsibility from God to go looking for you to restore you to the things of God.

Ezekiel 34:7 Therefore, ye shepherds, hear the word of the LORD; 8 As I live, saith the Lord GOD, surely because my flock became a prey, and my flock became meat to every beast of the field, because there was no shepherd, neither did my shepherds search for my flock, but the shepherds fed themselves, and fed not my flock; 9 Therefore, O ye shepherds, hear the word of the LORD; 10 Thus saith the Lord GOD; Behold, I am against the shepherds; and I will require my flock at their hand, and cause them to cease from feeding the flock; neither shall the shepherds feed themselves any more; for I will deliver my flock from their mouth, that they may not be meat for them.

The shepherd's number one priority, duty, activity is "feeding the flock", which being taken as an analogy of spiritual feeding of God's people with the Word of God. The highest criticism of God against the shepherds is that they fail to feed the flock, but they gorge themselves instead. This speaks of pastors that fail in their pastoral mission, but live well off of the flock.

Ezekiel 34:11 For thus saith the Lord GOD; Behold, I, even I, will both search my sheep, and seek them out. 12 As a shepherd seeketh out his flock in the day that he is among his sheep that are scattered; so will I seek out my sheep, and will deliver them out of all places where they have been scattered in the cloudy and dark day. 13 And I will bring them out from the people, and gather them from the countries, and will bring them to their own land, and feed them upon the mountains of Israel by the rivers, and in all the inhabited places of the country.

God desires that the sheep are "found", that means, that the sheep are located and situated "in the flock". This means very simply that God's will centers on Christians being identified and integrated into a local church setting. A flock is an organized group of sheep. God's desire is that the people of God gather, organize, and do what God wants the group to do. Simply put this is the work of God.

Ezekiel 34:14 I will feed them in a good pasture, and upon the high mountains of Israel shall their fold be: there shall they lie in a good fold, and in a fat pasture shall they feed upon the mountains of Israel. 15 I will feed my flock, and I will cause them to lie down, saith the Lord GOD. 16 I will seek that which was lost, and bring again that which was driven away, and will bind up that which was broken, and will strengthen that which was sick: but I will destroy the fat and the strong; I will feed them with judgment.

Shepherds say that sheep do not reproduce nor produce good wool or milk if they are scared, chased by predators, sick, or tired out from too much walking. God desires that they are cared for properly, and this responsibility falls to the pastor. He must "govern" (the Hebrew word for shepherd, ra'ah, means to govern, to make executive decisions for a group. It is sometimes translated this way in our English Bible).

Ezekiel 34:17 And as for you, O my flock, thus saith the Lord GOD; Behold, I judge between cattle and cattle, between the rams and the he goats. 18 Seemeth it a small thing unto you to have eaten up the good pasture, but ye must tread down with your feet the residue of your pastures? and to have drunk of the deep waters, but ye must foul the residue with your feet? 19 And as for my flock, they eat that which ye have trodden with your feet; and they drink that which ye have fouled with your feet. 20 Therefore thus saith the Lord GOD unto them; Behold, I, even I, will judge between the fat cattle and between the lean cattle. 21 Because ye have thrust with side and with shoulder, and pushed all the diseased with your horns, till ye have scattered them abroad; 22 Therefore will I save my flock, and they shall no more be a prey; and I will judge between cattle and cattle. 23 And I will set up one shepherd over them, and he shall feed them, even my servant David; he shall feed them, and he shall be their shepherd.

The picture here is that God is very mad at these "sheep" that destroy things for everybody else. They eat what they want, but they make it impossible for the rest to enjoy what God has provided for all. Those "sheep" that attack and destroy the good God provides for all are going to receive difficult treat from God sooner or later.

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